Graduate Student Research Spotlight
Highlighting research focused on national disaster resilience and research on early LGBTQIA+ challenges

The Graduate School, in collaboration with the Division of Research & Innovation, continues to showcase graduate students' research each month. As part of this recognition, the students selected will have their research featured in the University of Memphis Research + Innovation newsletter, on the UofM Graduate School website and on their respective social media platforms. Congratulations to the students featured in this month's spotlight! 


May 2021 Student Research Spotlight:



Hamed Tohidi: Since January 2018, Hamed Tohidi has been pursuing his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at the University of Memphis under the supervision of Dr. David Arellano. Tohidi is working with a research team that has been awarded a $3.2 million grant from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the National Disaster Resilience Competition grant. The grant’s goals are to map and assess damage from future floods and earthquakes in Lake, Dyer, Lauderdale, Tipton and Madison Counties in West Tennessee which is located within and adjacent to the New Madrid Seismic Zone, one of the major seismic zones in the United States. Tohidi’s work on the HUD project is focused on liquefaction analysis. Liquefaction is one of the consequences of earthquakes in which loose saturated soils lose shear strength due to the dynamic loading of the earthquake. Soil liquefaction causes serious damage to infrastructure and structures. The outcomes of the HUD project will provide detailed earthquake hazard maps that contribute to better community resiliency through better land use planning, emergency planning, and response, business contingency planning, existing structure retrofitting and informing strategies for new construction. Furthermore, for his Ph.D. dissertation, Tohidi is developing a new numerical methodology of liquefaction analysis for the Western Tennessee area that would result in a novel tool for researchers and Civil Engineering firms to perform liquefaction analysis. Tohidi has written and submitted reports and professional papers out of the HUD project, officially reviews other research proposed in his field, and helps manage a lab on campus where other students pursue their research. We admire Tohidi’s important research work and know he will contribute much to the future of our region, his field of study, and the UofM as he follows his intellectual academic objectives.



Triston Pullen: Triston Pullen is a master’s student in the College of Communication and Fine Arts majoring in Directing. For the past year, with the support of his advisor, Sarah Brown, Pullen has been researching and developing a memory play about the life of Walt Whitman from cradle to grave, entitled “Songs of Memories: A Whitmanic Queer Discovery.” The aim of this effort is to reveal poignant and rarely discussed aspects of Whitman’s journey and how he came to be, arguably, American’s first LGBTQIA+ activist and spokesperson. With the aid of renown Whitman scholar, Karen Karbiener, president of the Walt Whitman Initiative and clinical professor at New York University, Pullen was able to retrace Whitman’s life to create an in-depth dramatic study of his queer journey. “Songs of Memories” explores the nurturing relationship the Great Grey Poet had with his mother as well as the complex and toxic relationship he had to endure with his father. Using Whitman’s own prose, poetry and archived documented letters, the play draws its audience into the key events of Whitman’s personal and artistic development, such as the awakening passion he experienced with his first lover in New Orleans and with his greatest love, Peter Doyle, during the American Civil War. The play aims to create a dialogue about the repression of sexuality that Whitman describes as the “subtle electric fire” that played within him. By examining his lifelong struggle with melancholy and its connection to identity-based shame and denial, Pullen hopes to shed a meaningful light on what many people in the LGBTQIA+ community still experience today. We appreciate Pullen’s dedication and focus on such important work and finding ways to advance everyone’s understanding of LGBTQIA+ challenges.